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Howdy. I'm Justin Hall, a freelance writer living in Oakland California. I spent much of the last two years living in Japan, researching the social impact of new technologies and electronic entertainment. Now I write articles, contribute to Chanpon, Game Girl Advance and TheFeature.
Thanks for stopping by this old web site.
Photo by: Robin Hunicke
September 30, 2004
Footage from the Tokyo Game Show last weekend:
TGS2k4.mov - 53 megabytes - 7 minutes, 21 seconds Featuring interviews with game designers, veteran journalists, academics, and footage of Costume Players in chains. Thanks for everyone who was interviewed, including the people who spoke into my camera but it wasn't audible or visible or it was accidentally taped over; I'm learning how to pull this stuff together. This is fun! [Update: I made another video from Tokyo Game Show: Robin in Wonderland]
September 28, 2004
Eyeing a Boring October
I hope October is a boring month, I've been saying lately. Why? So I can experience sitting on the couch, drinking a beer, maybe watching teevee. Savoring the few projects I have, and enjoying downtime inbetween.
September 25, 2004
In Japan. It's a blast. Sweaty wandering gathering footage. Two movies to make - one mini-documentary on the Tokyo Game Show, at the request of my faculty advisor Scott Fisher. The other movie to make, a silent short for film class, I don't have a plot. But I plan to shoot a lot of closeups of friends' faces expressing emotion, then I can stitch them with Tokyo b-roll to make drama. I have an article assignment for TheFeature to write about mobile games in Japan by Friday. My Mom is coming to visit my house in LA on Wednesday; I get back Monday, so I gotta clean up and get ready for that fast! And I gotta write a video game by Monday, to turn in seven hours after I land. Fortunately, I just totally scrapped my preliminary game design in favor of a game design system I've never used. So I'm looking forward to that challenge. On the flight back, I guess?
Here's some photographs, to illustrate the human horsing around that bookends all this media intention:
September 22, 2004
every day above the dirt
A friend's fifteen year old neice has serious kidney problems. Hospital, respirator, transplant-type kidney problems. Take a deep breath, imagine fragile tender closed eyes young friend I've never met stirring against sickness. And what can I do?
It throws all this life into high relief. So I strain hard for comfort and meaningful media making - fitting out a house to live in, and scrambling to stay on top of my homework. I'm so caught up in all the circus I've joined I don't look up and see the celestial stands surrounding me - millions of souls passed this ground prior, and now - It's enough to make a man pull over at the Libreria Christiana on Sepulveda and ask some questions of the cosmos. Except I can't really speak spanish, let alone spell it.
Today one of my film teachers called out to me, "Well I know you want to make everything digital" - sure I like to take all my notes and assignments in digital form. I don't even bother bringing paper and pen to class. Paper is beginning to freak me out - I can't throw it out, don't know where to put it, etc. I'd rather have everything on a hard drive.
But the risk of living digital, it seems to me today, is that digital living promotes an illusion - the illusion of flexible even living. Fitting everything into a database and playing with it. Ordering intimacy online. Scheduling meaning.
Fortunately life, biology, flesh seldom fails to demonstrate that we're still a bunch of vulnerable meatbags. Fingering buttons may be great fun, but mother nature wears a strap-on and that's a bigger feeling.
I'm trying to keep up with a sick girl I've never met. I feel for my friend. I wonder what I'm doing. My mind strays momentarily to "what if I die tomorrow? what good is school?" But then I remember I recently read Arthur Miller quoting Eubie Blake, a Jazz pianist who lived to the age of 100: "If I had known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself."
This evening, I was chatting with Howard. He said, "Well, I count my extraordinary good luck with every day above the dirt." Every day above the dirt. Taking care of myself. Extending care to others, at least in my mind, made digital.
September 20, 2004
rip cry burn
Last night I burned my first music mix CD. I used to be a DJ, I used to make mix tapes. But I'd never really experimented with this whole custom mixed CDs.
I had a motivation - a friend had shared some Jeff Buckley with me, and I found the first few moments of his song "So Real" evoked a feeling in me, a feeling damp and deep, it's a feeling I have a few other songs to stoke
So I replied with a mix of my own. The track listing is below; six of the songs you can download free over the innernet!
shibuya_1melody - Tokyo Train Tunes
September 18, 2004
hlr bday mov
Right now, I'm enrolled in Film School. Sure, I'm in the Interactive Media division, but it's a division of the film school.
To prepare myself for my film production classes, I gave myself an assignment this summer: make a short video. Actually, I gave myself a pile of assignments. Few of them were completed, but this one was:
For Howard's birthday this year, I brought my camera, and recorded what was, in many ways, a typical Howard-at-home day: in the garden, painting, cavorting with graven images, fondling fruit, relaxing with family and friends, full throated taunting through song.
I took 40 minutes of DV footage, compressed it into 5 minutes using Apple's iMovie. I added a soundtrack by Matmos: their songs "Zealous Order of Candied Knights" and "Yeild to Total Elation" from their album The Civil War. You should pick it up - it's fantastic music.
HLR57 - 33 Megabytes Quicktime, Five Minutes.
Having worked on a few more videos since then, I can see where it's a wee bit sloppy, dark and muffled. But it stands as I originally intended - a record of a place and time, and a guy who inhabited that fully.
[a partial dialog transcript follows - ]
- visiting Mama
Howard: Saturday we paint together, okay?
Mama: You're a doll - bless your heart.
Howard: "Just remember - keep doing art and the rest will fall into place."
Howard: Ripe cherries.
- preparing to paint
Phyllis: [gesturing at the canvas] - Wow, it looks like spider webs!
Howard: This is my spot. What is life compared to this?
- preparing dinner: vegetables from the garden
Mamie: What are you, are you sixty?
September 15, 2004
How can something so new evolve so fast? When I was with her I felt the current of an active mind - I watched her iterate start to finish before I could breathe deep enough to realize she was right. The intelligence I enjoyed had seen it first - oversubscribed and semi-intense I probably wasn't a good partner. Perhaps for a sparrow.
But I've set my heart sight on maturity, someone managing their internal life enough to leave me to my madness. And that's what she did, so ending this a brief sojourn: a respite in a rich growing garden where the vines twisted up around my monk's heart unbound and freed my pores happy to gasp at the female fragrant air.
Now I find my lust let loose! And some sobriety leaking in my emotional envaginations. I take daily stock of the work I've selected for the waning days of my second decade - establishing home, extending my studies. And it's enough
Still I can't purge that wide smile from my mind, upturned mouth corners are written upside down on the back of my eyeballs. Something to carry me through, a hand under my thighs and an arm under my shoulders, lifting me over this desk, past the construction lingering in the house, carry me through, smiling hands, to the open garden where the yellow haze and orange heat of this place will once again sing with early banter before evolution.
September 13, 2004
Jerome and I have been talking about films and personal media for over a year now; he prompted me to take a video camera to Japan last year with Jane. I still haven't dug through all that footage, but I have started using this little handcam for personal journalism, for storytelling, for something verging on VideoBlogging. Witness: Howard and Cody
Jerome wants to work on an ongoing video project, a sort of segmented documentary, perhaps? He asked me to make a sort of a pilot for his pitch to Arte in France. I grabbed my video camera these last few weeks while my house was under construction and I've made this self-contained personal narrative out of my moving experience:
Casita - 41 Megabytes Quicktime, Seven Minutes, Twenty Seconds.
Each video I make I'm working to improve my skills. I dwell in the program, I browse the manuals and helpfiles, I talk to Ryan. Ryan recommended the forums on 2-Pop as a good learning resource. The first film I made was in iMovie, now I've moved on to Final Cut Pro. I enjoy this work! Fortunately, I have friends around to keep me from including multiple picture-in-picture and layers of text scrolling over the images.
[In August, I used 52 gig a month for web traffic!]
September 11, 2004
measure of my days
Some days I measure in boxes. It's a real accomplishment when I compact my life still further - emptying, sorting, tossing, giving away or maybe putting away old possessions. Of which there are still too many, but after yesterday, there are three less.
My school schedule is falling into place - intensity rules from Monday and tapers off by Thursday. What seems like impossible odds Wednesday has faded to a manageable life in repose during a full day on Friday.
As for interactive, I've got a prototype game mechanic to build in Flash this weekend, based on a passage from Alice Goodman's Nixon in China libretto. And always some maintenance and evolution of the Interactive group weblog. I have my own page there where I'll be posting other notes and observations. Multiple Web Page Disorder.
Aaron from my program is staying at my house for most of this month - that's been fun. We share many of the same cultural literacies (baby sna-akes). He is seven years younger than me, and whether it's that or something else, he's decided I have a few gaping holes in my popcultural experience. Meanwhile, I forced him to watch Galaxy Quest, a movie I consider to be on-par with Zoolander. He disagrees. Here you can see the kind of attention he gave the film - his head appears between my three monitors, and the TV - he's looking at his laptop instead of the Thermians.
So life is full, and I can pick my head up to see that - the boxes and continuing construction have me feeling like I'm working towards something - that point when I walk through my house towards a seat and sit down and do something. Instead of walking through my house and seeing a long list of to-dos. Briefly: California Closets installed shelves, drawers and bars so my clothes came off the floor and out of suitcases this week. Hurrah! What a feeling! I'm going to experiment with hanging most of my garments.
And the carpentry-accident gash has been healed enough now that work continues on the word furniture - a bedframe and bench seating for the garden. I should be sanding and finishing this Saturday and Sunday.
The fridge died this last week, or maybe ten days ago - we noticed that the frozen juice in the freezer was liquid and Aaron found his cereal milk had gone bad. The fridge, maybe 20 years old? it cools intermittently - good enough for beer maybe, but not for dairy products. So yesterday I devoted half my day of repose to appliance hunting. Mission accomplished! in the Bushian sense - I should have my fridge in a few days delivered.
Still no blinds on the windows. Lots of light, and no privacy. New blinds should be coming in, in a few weeks. That will be a nice change! I ordered them all to be bottom-up blinds, because mostly, in houses, I find I want to block out the sidewalk and not the sky.
Anyhow, heck I could detail indefinitely the small tasks remaining but I've got homework to catch up on, before brunch with a beauty! I will leave here a picture of family visiting my home, my sister and her husband and their kids:
September 05, 2004
My homework for film class this weekend includes reading the script for Good Will Hunting and deciding how I might direct a few scenes. Switching gender of the characters is an option, one of my teachers said; I liked hearing that.
Mark Gray and Daniele Suissa are my "Introduction to Cinema Technique" teachers. We seem to have more homework than the other sections, due sooner; I guess that means I'm getting more education than my more relaxed peers!
On the home front, Piper visited again this weekend to finish a wood bench and a bedframe. Neither piece was ready on time, and while she was working with a local carpenter in the garden here, he had a saw accident that cut a deep bloody gash in his knee. As I was bringing him a cool wet towel he collapsed in a heap on my deck, shuddering and shaking. He resisted all calls for professional medical attention. And finally managed to limp away on his own power. That's suspended the remodeling activity for the day - Piper's driving back to San Francisco, the carpenter says he'll call me later this week. I'm going to cover the wood and saw with a tarp. It feels like 100 degrees here.
In other news, I've been working to help the other first year Interactive Media students to get their own blogs started on the USC Interactive web site - as you can see from the hacked faceroll sidebar, some of them are updating already!
September 04, 2004
don't you worry
how long have you two known each other?
I could call down angel's trumpets to call out my affections! But they destroy the liver. Maybe emotional intimacy sounds less like long clear wind notes and more like percussion. 72 maybe like a heart beat, but more likely sped up to drum and bass.
The truth revealed then - emotional intimacy is a racketing sound, memories bouncing around the heart. Projections of earliest desire and aspiration. We each have different goals but they might be described as something along the lines of rest and resume. All I can describe is my own search for security in intensity!
Just keep cleaning up! Relaxing! Avoiding conflict! Pushing my restless heart to homework and homemaking. I aspire to have new problems to worry about. And I'm still reminded that
I wish I could speak more specifically. I mean, I'm challenged as I wish to protect privacy. Maybe that's intimacy. I'm working on it. So I have to find other ways to address universal truths as I see them refracted through my own experience. I guess I could filter out any reference to anything other than my own bellyache - how a two-sexed young scrawn found a matching piece for a dusty puzzle on a folding table in the corner of a cluttered mind. And suddenly to return to this 10,000 piece landscape scene he discovered piles of pieces in his lap, pieces coming out of his pockets, the front pockets, and eyes wide happy-appearing pieces began to cough cough come out of his throat -
see I like that - in that vision, you can look at the liquid rims around my eyes and see tears, sweat or pre-cum. Back to work!
September 02, 2004
And she returns my calls!
I met a gal who makes me want to floss. Just getting out of the house or trading casual touches by telephone. Some thing is happening, an embrocating exercise regimen for a tired heart. Unwitting smiles.
Some moments life seems dimmed without. Other moments I gladly doubletime to finish my duties before she calls and I rush off for a few more hours in suspended smiling animation
time changes, the sky opens, the years beyond now shift into rose-focus, my manhood considered, a new set of smells. senses, other then words.
I'm still behind, in school, in work, my home, in laundry. But I like it. I have an ally.
Mandatory classroom tutorial on some software I plan not to use: I arrived late. I slept. I read a magazine. I called out irrelevant answers to the simple questions asked by the teacher. I taunted my fellow students, successfully goading others into impatience. Then, I left early.